Big Mal the Gentle Giant

Like pretty much every Beatle fan I know; I watched the recent broadcast of Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’ on the Disney Channel in awe and wonder. It was a pure joy to sit through the hours and hours of the footage, an experience that left me feeling like I had been let into their secret world. If anything after seeing it, my admiration for the band even went up a notch or two, and it was already at the highest it could be. Or so I thought.

Among all the fascinating comings and goings at Twickenham Studios and subsequently at number 3 Savile Row, the figure of Mal Evans kept catching my eye. I loved the vibe of the good times he seemed to be having, going by the soppy grin all over his face most of the time.  Mal was a combination of roadie, bodyguard and general factotum for all of the band, as well as being a confidant of the Fab Four from the early Cavern days, right up to the very end of `the band as a four piece.

He was born Malcolm Frederick Evans in May 1935 in Wavertree, Liverpool, the son of Fred and Joan. In 1961, he married a local girl Lily, after meeting her at a funfair at New Brighton. They had a son Gary in the same year, and he was joined by a sister Julie, in 1966.

Mal worked as an engineer for the Post Office and often popped down to The Cavern club for an ‘extended lunch break.’ He soon became a fan of the band he regularly went to see, namely The Beatles, though in truth he was more of an Elvis fan, and he soon became a familiar figure to the band, as it was hard to miss him, standing as he did at 6ft, 6.

‘I walked down this little street called Mathew Street that I’d never noticed before and came to this place, the Cavern Club. I’d never been inside a club, but I heard this music coming out – real rock it sounded, a bit like Elvis. So I paid my shilling and went in…’

When the club were looking to hire a doorman, George Harrison recommended Mal, mainly due to size, and being of a burly build. Though as the Beatles career began to take off nationally, he began working with them full time, in the capacity of roadie and bodyguard if needed, alongside long time mate of the four, Neil Aspinall. Mal’s knowledge of wiring and electronics, picked up from his engineering past, also proved very valuable when he and Neil set up the band equipment at gigs. He also became the ‘go to man’ for any of their needs as their days got more and more hectic, be it food, drink, or underwear.

‘One time, Neil was sick, and we needed someone to drive us to London, so we asked Mal. He was a nice bloke, and by this time we’d been chatting with him a lot. He had to take a couple of days off work to do it. Then as we were expanding with all the gigs, we realised we had to get someone else to drive the van and leave Neil to look after us and our suits and all of that. It was a unanimous thought. So Mal left his job and came to work for us.’ George.

‘He was our bodyguard, but he was great at it because he would never hurt anyone. He was just big enough to say, ‘Excuse me, let the boys through.’ He was pretty strong. He could lift the bass amp on his own, which was a miracle. He should have been in the circus.’ Ringo.

Mal’s experiences as part of the inner circle were second to none, from experimenting with Cannabis for the first time with them, to serving up their whisky and cokes, from backstage, whilst they performed at the London Palladium in 1964.

By far the heaviest occasion Mal had to deal with was when The Beatles toured the Philippines and unknowingly ignored Imelda Marcos, wife of President, Ferdinand . As the band made their way to the airport to fly of out the country, all police protection was withdrawn, leaving the band and Mal alone, and subject to physical attacks by an irate public, stoked up by news reports of their ‘treatment’ handed out to the first lady.

Mal was forced off the plane and told the others to ‘tell Lil I love her’ fearing what was about the happen. He was only allowed to fly with the rest of his party, subject to Brian Epstein handing over the takings earned from the gigs whilst there.

Mal continued to work for the Beatles, once their touring days were over. Duties over the years, included finding photographs of all those who appear on the cover of the Sgt. Peppers album, hitting the anvil on the recording of ‘Maxwell’s Silver hammer,’ – which can be seen in ‘Get Back’  – and counting down the 24 bars to then setting off the alarm clock which can be heard on the track AND striking a piano to achieve that last thunderous chord, on the ‘Day In The Life’ track. It has also been said he contributed lyrics on the track ‘Fixing a Hole,’ but was, it seems, talked out of claiming his song writing dues.

Film wise, Mal can be seen in ‘Hard Day’s Night’ carrying a double bass, playing a befuddled swimmer in ‘Help!’ and a magician on ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ He and Neil also painted the logo on the coach.  He often filmed the band with his home movie camera, during his time with them, and a collection of those films was later released on a DVD.

Mal was on many of the trips undertaken by various members of the band, including the time spent in India, as part of the visit to the Maharishi in 1968.

‘It’s hard to believe that a week has already passed. I suppose the peace of mind and the serenity one achieves through meditation makes the time fly…’ he said on a postcard home.

In the same year he was promoted from road manager to personal assistant, though it said his wages of £38 a week, didn’t change.
Mal was also pretty good talent spotter and a group called ‘The Ivey’s’ caught his attention and  he recommended that Apple sign them.  Under the name of Badfinger, and with Mal in the production chair, they released that classic song ‘No Matter What’ which hit the top ten in the UK and the US. Mal also produced the singer Jackie Lomax.

Mal was close to Paul and was there, unlike the rest of the band, when Macca married Linda, though he missed the actual ceremony, collecting a late arriving Mike McCartney, Pauls brother,  from a train station. 

Diary entry, January 27th, 1969 : ‘Today we had the engineer to look at the roof of No. 3. 5lbs per sq. in. is all it will take weight wise. Needs scaffolding to make platform. Getting helicopter for shot of roof. Should get good shot of crowds in street, who knows police might try to stop us. Asked Alistair -Taylor, Apple office manager – to get toasted sandwich machine.’

Mal had strict instructions to delay any police arrivals on the day of the actual gig on January 30th. In fact, his delaying tactics were so good, he got himself arrested, by PC Ray Dagg. 

‘On the way up to the roof, they arrested me, with one of the policemen putting me in his book.’

Mal, can be seen creeping about behind the speakers, turning them off and trying to tell George and John, the police were complaining.

We said, ‘We’re not stopping.’ He said, ‘The police are going to arrest you.’ – ‘Good end to the film. Let them do it.’ Paul.

All turned out fine in the end though.

‘Paul, being the public relations man that he is, apologised to the police and got me off the hook.’

When American manager Allen Klein took over managing the band, he sacked Mal. However, his old mates McCartney, Harrison and Starr, went into bat for him and he was soon given his old job back. Despite years as a loyal servant to the band, Evans was effectively skint. Ever loyal, he struggled to ask them for a pay rise, but in the end, the situation was so bad, he revealed to George his financial problems.

Then it was all over, and The Beatles split up in 1970. Mal separated from his wife Lil in 1973 and moved to LA and spent time with John Lennon, who was there on his ‘lost weekend’ with May Pang, after his separation from Yoko.
Whilst there, Mal had begun working on his memoirs, to be called ‘Living The Beatles Legend’ due for publication, with permission of the band,  in the January of 1976.

In truth though, he was struggling mentally after the recent divorce from Lil, living as he was with his girlified Fran Hughes. During a meeting with co-author of the book, John Hoernie, Mal was described as ‘groggy and doped up’  as he became agitated and confused and began to wave an air rifle around. Hoernie called the police. They confronted Mal and reported they told him to put the rifle down, but he continued to point it at them. They opened fire and killed him, with four of the six shots fired hitting his body.
Mal was 40.

His old mate Neil Aspinall and Beatles producer George Martin attended his cremation, though none of the band did. George Harrison arranged for his family to receive a sum of £5,000.00 to cover for the lack of life insurance and a pension.

In 1986, a suitcase containing Mal’s diaries and other personal items was found in the offices of a New York publisher. Under instruction from Yoko, this was returned to his family. From it, the Evans estate sold a page of John Lennon lyrics to ‘Day in The Life’ at Sotheby’s in 1992, which sold for over a million dollars. In 1998, a notebook containing lyrics to ‘Hey Jude’ written by Paul McCartney sold for £111, 500 and in 2004 more notes and lyrics were again sold by Sotheby’s, this time for $1.2 million. Further sales from the collection were then stopped by Paul, who said that they were owned collectively by the remaining Beatles and therefore not the families to sell.

Recently, the Evans’ family have teamed up with Beatles scholar and author Kenneth Womack for Mal’s biography, which will be published by HarperCollins’ Dey Street Books imprint. They also plan to release his archives containing his diaries at a later date

Being there for nearly every minute of all of their sessions, having struggled with them on those world tours, Mal understood they were crafting a musical legacy that was something extraordinarily special.’

‘My dad meant the world to me,’ Gary Evans, Mal’s son.

‘He was my hero. Before Ken joined the project, I thought I knew the story of my dad. But what I knew was in monochrome; 15 months later it is like The Wizard of Oz (dad’s favourite film) because Ken has added so much colour, so much light to his story. Ken has shown me that dad was the Beatles’ greatest friend. He was lucky to meet them, but they had more good fortune with dad walking down the Cavern steps for the first time.’

The Mumper of SE5



THE SPEAKEASY Volume One by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)

Illustrations by Lewis Wharton

Foreword by Gary Crowley


Book available to order HERE



The Autumn / Winter 2021 collection is now available in our shop

Highlights include style TERENCE – four new colours are now available in our classic 100% cotton turtle neck, pure modernist aesthetic.

Black, Wine, Scotch Broom & Brown

Also available in Sailor Blue, Ibiza Blue & Tobacco



Sign up to our newsletter and receive an exclusive promo code, latest news & Art Gallery Clothing offers.

Newsletter Signup